Took a Break? Returning to Aerial Shape


As I(Rebekah) am currently 7 months pregnant, I find myself reflecting back on my journey back into aerial shape that I wrote about after the birth of my first child in 2011. You may recognize the picture above from a blog I posted a few years back. These pictures were taken in February and August of 2011. I am about to make that very same journey this year once I have this baby, and so I am encouraged by hearing other “returns to aerial after a break” stories. Ryah Cooley is one of those aerialists who have a story to tell. If you are also one of those who took a break for any reason, be encouraged! If it feels hard, you’re not alone. Read below as Ryah shares from the heart. 


Once upon a time aerial fabric dancing kind of was my life. I took classes, performed,

traveled for intensive workshops, taught aerial to kids and even wrote pieces on it.

Then life got busy. I became more focused on school, pursuing a career in writing

and my long-term relationship. Things like time, money and proximity to a good

studio got in the way of even doing aerial for fun.


And then things quickly changed and I found myself with a lot more time on my

hands. Within the span of two months my relationship ended, I was laid off from my

writing job and I had to move back home with my parents to save money and try to

piece my life back together.


With everything in life bringing me down, I wanted to return to doing something

that made me happy, which is how recently I found myself staring at a set of silks for

the first time in close to two years.


Although I had been doing other things to stay physically active during that time, I’m

nowhere close to being as in shape now as I was back when I taught and practiced

aerial multiple times a week.


If you’ve found yourself going through an aerial dry-spell for whatever reason, read

on for my tips on getting back into aerial shape.


Don’t go alone.

It’s been a while and your skills are probably a tad rusty. For safety

reasons, I made sure other people would be around at the studio I was practicing at

and I even had a friend come along to watch me.

-Consider a refresher class. You’ll be surprised at how many movements your

body remembers on its own, but to avoid that oh-so-scary moment where you’re up

in the air and can’t remember which way the wrap goes for that big drop, splurge on

some instruction time. If an aerial class is nowhere to be found in your area, take

some time to review aerial movements at our video library.


Go slow.

Even if you were doing aerial five times a week before, your body likely

won’t be able to handle that right off the bat. Start off with one or two aerial sessions

a week and go from there as you progress.

-Go low at first. I’ve always been a big fan of learning the wraps to drops at a nice,

low height until I’ve got them completely memorized. This trick is even handier if

you’ve been on aerial hiatus and things are a little fuzzy. Having silks with an extra

long tail makes this easier.


Cross train.

Definitely continue to incorporate other workouts, like strength

training, yoga and cardio into your fitness routine, as it will only benefit your time in

the air. Now that aerial is back in my life, I take care to not do a crazy hard workout

the day before an aerial session so my muscles aren’t overly fatigued when I’m on

the silks. I also love taking a long yoga class the day after an intense aerial session to

stretch everything out.


Balance your plate.

Make sure you’re fueling your body with a good mixture of

fruits, veggies, protein and healthy carbs so you have the energy to sustain your

aerial sessions. In particular, I notice that I need a lot more protein when I’m doing

aerial versus when I’m not.


Have fun!

Above all, have fun with the process. You’re literally defying gravity,

which is ridiculously cool and you’re making time for something that you love. Don’t

beat yourself up about not being where you used to be skill wise. You’ll get there in


ryah.portraits-54Ryah is a writer and aerialist currently hanging out in San Luis Obispo, CA. She needs a step stool to reach most things and is pro-double dipping. To read more of her writing, visit or follow @ryahcooley on Twitter. 

4 thoughts on “Took a Break? Returning to Aerial Shape”

  1. thank you for sharing this story! I was devoted aerial student for about three years, then I seriously broke my wrist AND had a baby. It was a rough road of recovery for me and I always love to read stories of getting back in the air.

    1. Karina – Thanks for sharing as well! It is tough getting back in there. I’m there right now and it means a lot to know that there are others out there going through the same thing. I just had a baby and went through some surgery which got infected, and on and on….anyway I can’t wait to be past all this and back in the air!!!! All the best to you.

  2. I’ve been off for 2 years. I was diagnosed with Lymphoma. After radiation I am now in the year of recovery but got the A-OK from the doctor to start training again. I go to Physical Therapy, the Gym, and the studio. The hardest part is this is my 10 year anniversary of the business and being an owner an no longer an instructor has been the most humbling part.

    The greatest part is being more compassionate and being able to relate to anyone regarding a “comeback”. Thank you for this blog post – Some days it is nice not to feel alone.

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